Blog 505: From Germany With Love

Those Germans know their synth music. One of my favourite bands of “recent years” (in terms of discovery rather than actual age, natch) is The Twins, a synth-pop duo whose back catalogue I have begun to assemble. My most recent acquisition of theirs is Hold On To Your Dreams.

Even more recently, though, and at least a little more relevant to modernity (had I found it a few weeks earlier it might have fitted nicely into Old Men of Music), I’ve encountered an album by Alphaville from 2010, called Catching Rays On Giant

The Twins — Hold On To Your Dreams

You told me something about the plans
That you made some years ago
And you found out that it’s not so easy
To get what you want

I can’t even remember the precise circumstances that led me to The Twins. I was on Spotify, or Last.fm, and they showed up in somebody’s Related Artists section. I observed and I sampled their greatest hits.

Oh me oh my.

It’s hard to sum up The Twins in terms of other bands, but I’m going to try anyway. Combine the drumming of Ultravox’s Warren Cann, the synths of early Numan (with more than a little dash of Kraftwerk), the lyrics of Erasure, and you might have something in your mind not unlike their music. It is exceptionally and consistently high quality synth pop, right from their early 80s beginnings to their end in the 90s. Either way, they rocketed right into my heart and I set my sights on collecting their albums.

Of course, I couldn’t actually get a post-millenial remaster of Hold On To Your Dreamsfrom Amazon.co.uk or even Amazon.com — I had to surf Google Translate over Amazon.de to get this quite frankly brilliant album onto my shelf.

Okay, the music is unstoppable but the album artwork isn’t perfect.

Bringing a bit of guitar to flesh out the pure synths and drum pads of their earlier music, the title track is a rousing song about, well, holding on to your dreams. And one of the other singles, Time Will Tell, is constantly reminiscent of Sonic 3D: Flickies’ Island‘s Rusty Ruin Zone theme (but still a stonking tune in its own right).

Otherwise, it’s a solid mix of powerful ballads and softer ballads, rocking synths and delightful sing-along lyrics. Hold On To Your Dreams really has it all.

Alphaville — Catching Rays on Giant

Alphaville cropped up on my scope when I heard Forever Young played on Radio 2 one morning (I think it might have been our holiday to Mull a few years back), and I was instantly captivated by this bittersweet howler. Always attracted to high-pitched male vocalists, I tracked down the album of the same name and thoroughly enjoyed it (though I do feel that, like A-ha’s Stay on These Roads, it’s perhaps a little weak in its mastery or production or overall arrangement).

I hardly understand the things I’ve done
I used to be so thoughtless all the time

But the shops never stock anything else by Alphaville ever, so my attention drifted away.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago. I somehow end up on their Spotify profile and see… Oh, they had an album out in 2010? It’s got a name that doesn’t entirely make sense (but neither does OMD’s History of Modern, unless you say it right), but I’ve got plenty of spare hours so let’s slam it on.

Bloody hell. It’s like old-school synth and modern techno crashed into an orchestra and produced mad electronic progeny. Musically, it’s extremely grandiose and it never lets up — every song is a collossus of danceability or a slab-sided monolith, especially the grand finale Miracle Healing that bows the album out on a suitably epic scale.

Well, it does have the word “giant” in its name — and by ‘eck, does it have every right to use it.

I can only describe this album as a “total belter” and leave it at that. Get it on and ramp up the volume!

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